It started after the attack on Lord Technologies. They lost over half their agents in that attack. J’onn was kidnapped by Non and his associates. Alex became the emergency Director of the DEO. It was a lot to handle. And Alex couldn’t handle it.
The pressure of it all was too much. She was used to having the pressure her mother placed on her. The pressure to be perfect. The pressure to keep Kara safe. She had dedicated her whole life to that. But now, she had the lives of every single DEO agent in her hands, and it was too much.
She didn’t let it show at work. No, at work she was strong, and confident, and did her job well. But at home, at night, she’d turn Kara down for sister night saying she just needed some alone time. She turned to a bottle of whiskey for comfort. Night after night. She’d get drunk. She’d cry. Or she wouldn’t. Sometimes there were no tears left. And one night, when it became too much, she found herself on the bathroom floor with a razor blade.
She told herself she deserved the pain. That she deserved to feel this because she couldn’t save those agents. Because she let J’onn get taken. Because she had the weight of the world placed on her shoulders and she cracked under the pressure.
She let the blood drip down her arms. She let her tears fall and mix with it. She picked up the blade to make another cut. Before the blade could touch her skin her phone dinged beside her. She saw Kara’s face pop up with a message.
Kara: I know you said you wanted to be alone tonight, but I really need my big sister. Please. I’ll be there in 15 minutes unless you tell me not to…
Alex desperately wanted to tell her not to come over. But Kara needed her. Kara always needed her. And Alex was always there for her. So Alex started to clean herself up. She cleaned her arms with a warm cloth and bandaged her wrists. She washed her face and put on a little makeup to cover her tear stained face. She cleaned up all evidence of what had just happened.
She went to her closet and put on a long sleeved pyjama shirt, and threw on a hoodie for good measure. She didn’t want Kara to see the bandages. And so when Kara came through the front door instead of the window because she had blown her powers 15 minutes later, Alex was curled up on the couch with blankets, ready to comfort her sister, as if nothing had happened.
After that, Alex started wearing her long sleeved DEO issued field wear every day. Sure, the polo may be more comfortable, but she needed to keep her scars and her bandages hidden. She worried every day that someone was going to ask her about her change in uniform. She had a few excuses lined up.
Change of position, you know?
Just trying to look more professional.
Why bother changing to have to go out in the field when you can already be wearing your field wear?
They weren’t great excuses, but they ran through her head, just in case someone asked. No one ever did.
For a while things got better. J’onn came back. She was no longer in charge. That was one weight lifted off her shoulders. But then things got worse. A lot worse.
After she killed Astra, she had no control. She wanted to feel nothing and yet everything all at once. She wanted the pain in her heart to be numbed, but she wanted the pain of the blade on her skin to burn.
After Astra, she had one scare where she went too far. She cut too deep, she couldn’t get the bleeding to stop. This wasn’t how it was supposed to go. It was supposed to be something she could hide. She couldn’t hide this.
But she was a doctor, she could fix this. She dug out the first aid kit from under her sink, and grabbed the suture kit. It was difficult to stitch up her wrist with her left hand. And the result certainly wasn’t pretty, and it wouldn’t heal nicely. But she had closed the wound and stopped the bleeding. She was ok. No one had to find out what had happened.
That night she vowed to herself to get better. What would Kara do if she lost Alex because of a blade because Alex had needed to feel the pain, had needed to feel something? She kept her wrists bandaged, she wore long sleeved shirts all the time. She kept her alone time to a minimum. She spent a lot of time at Kara’s. Kara needed her, right? So Alex let the wounds heal.
But she never stopped wearing long sleeve shirts. She never wanted anyone to see the faint lines on her wrists. Most of the scars were faint. Probably hardly even noticeable. But the one on her right wrist with her stitch job was still there. There was no question as to what had happened there. That scar told a story. So she kept it hidden.
When Maggie came into her life, she was terrified of the impending… intimacy. Their make out sessions were becoming longer, and more heated. And every time Maggie’s hands wandered to her shirt, Alex stopped. She’s push Maggie up off of her. She’d tell her she wasn’t ready. And thankfully, Maggie respected her boundaries. It’s not that Alex didn’t want to have sex with Maggie. She really did. Like she really really did. But she wasn’t ready to tell Maggie about the scars. So she wasn’t really lying to Maggie. She wasn’t ready. Just not for what Maggie thought.
But then Kara almost died, and Alex couldn’t save her. Kara was still unconscious under the sun beds at the DEO, but she was going to be ok.
Maggie was worried. Alex had left the DEO after making sure Kara was going to be ok, and hadn’t told anyone where she was going. She wasn’t picking up her phone. No matter how many messages Maggie left. No matter how many texts Maggie sent. So Maggie took Kara’s key to Alex’s apartment and let herself in, hoping to find her girlfriend there.
She opened the door and saw empty bottles around Alex’s apartment. Empty beer bottles by the couch. An empty whiskey bottle on the counter. Another, almost empty, spilt by the bathroom door.
She heard the shower running, but the bathroom door was open, so Maggie rushed across the room trying to find Alex.
There was a prescription bottle on the vanity, pills strewn across the counter and the floor. Whether Alex had taken any or not, she didn’t know.
And there was Alex. Sitting on the floor of the shower. Still fully clothed, in a long sleeve shirt and sweatpants, soaking wet.
She was holding a razor blade. Looking at it. Crying. Shaking. Desperately trying to keep her wrists covered. She didn’t want to do this. She didn’t want to reopen these wounds. But it would make her feel something. It would make her feel the pain she thought she deserved.
“Alex…” Maggie said softly. She crossed the room and turned off the shower. She climbed in the shower and sat facing Alex. She held Alex’s wrists in her hands, steadying the shaking. Maggie took the blade from Alex’s hand and put it on the edge of the tub behind her. Alex broke down into sobs. Maggie scooted forward, wrapping her legs around Alex and holding her tight. Alex shook and Alex cried and Alex broke.
“Shhh…” Maggie said, rocking her girlfriend soothingly. “I’ve got you. Let it out.”
It hurt Maggie to watch Alex break in her arms. Alex held onto her like she was a lifeline. And maybe in that moment she was. What might’ve happened if Maggie hadn’t found her, Maggie didn’t want to find out.
They sat there, holding each other, Alex crying, and neither spoke for a long time. After Alex regained control of her breathing and the tears had slowed, she spoke.
“I- I can’t do this anymore, Maggie….”
Maggie gripped her tighter.
“I can’t hold everyone else up anymore. I- it’’s too much.”
“You don’t need to, babe. You need to take care of yourself.”
“But I do, Maggie. Everyone depends on me. J’onn and the DEO. Kara. You.”
“I don’t need you to hold me up, Alex. It’s not your job to take care of me. And Kara. She can handle herself, you know.”
“She almost died, Maggie! And there was nothing I could do!”
Alex burrowed her head into Maggie’s shoulder, and the tears began to fall again.
“I- I watched her fall, Maggie. I saw her hit the ground, and I couldn’t save her. And I just- I broke. I needed to feel something….”
Maggie let Alex cry. And she let Alex speak. She rubbed circles on her back, she held her close, she held her up.
Alex sat up and pulled the sleeves of her shirt up, and Maggie saw all the scars. The small ones and the big one. The story of Alex’s struggle laid out before her. And, to Alex’s surprise, she didn’t run. She didn’t yell. She didn’t tell Alex they were gross, or ugly, or that she shouldn’t do that to herself. All of Alex’s fears were gone.
Maggie picked up her wrists, and laid gentle kisses on both.
“This doesn’t change anything, Alex. I’m still here. I’m not going anywhere. I- I love you Alex. Regardless of the scars on your body. I’m here to help you heal. I want to help you heal.”
Alex froze. They hadn’t said those three little words yet. Those words that were charged with feelings. With promises. With love. And Alex knew that Maggie meant every word, but Alex couldn’t say it back.
“I- Maggie- I can’t save anyone else until I save myself. And I think- I think I need your help to do that, but I- I can’t love you. Not yet. Not until I can love myself again. I can’t- I-”
Alex couldn’t control the sobs. Surely Maggie would get up and leave after all of this. Surely Maggie wanted nothing to do with her broken self.
“It’s ok, Alex. You’re allowed to put yourself first.”
Maggie held her hands, and pulled her gaze towards herself. Alex looked into her eyes for some sign. Some sign that this was real. That she meant it. And she found it. Maggie’s eyes sparkled. With love, or with tears Alex wasn’t sure. But they were looking at her like she was everything.
“No one’s ever said that to me before…”
“It’s true. You’re allowed to take care of yourself, and put yourself first, and save yourself, and love yourself. I don’t know what I would do if I lost you, Alex. So I need you to take care of yourself, however you need to. And I’ll be here every step of the way if you need me, ok?”
“Ok,” Alex sniffled and nodded.
Maggie was here. Maggie understood. Maggie loved her. And Alex finally understood why she needed, and wanted, to save herself. Because there was an amazing woman sitting on the shower floor with her, who wasn’t telling her she needed to be better, or that she needed to be perfect, but was telling her that she was perfect the way she was, and that she deserved to be loved. And Alex wanted to love her too.